OBITUARY: Juna Davitashvili, the USSR’s healing hands of faith no more

By bne IntelliNews June 16, 2015

Nick Allen in Berlin -


Evgenia "Juna" Davitashvili, faith healer to the stars, died on June 8, aged 65.

Russian faith healer Evgenia "Juna" Davitashvili, whose reputed powers were sought out by such diverse figures as ex-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and American movie star Robert de Niro, died on June 8, leaving behind a swell of tributes, grief and outrage at the fate of her estate even before she was laid to rest. She was 65.

Born Evgenia Sardis of Assyrian descent, but known most of her life as Juna, the healer claimed to be able to cure cancer, knit broken bodies and prolong life beyond 100 years. Taking the Georgian-language surname of her ex-husband, she rose to prominence in the 1970s, was actively consulted by member of the Soviet Georgian leadership, but was also known for her common touch and attentive treatment of ordinary citizens.

Much of the “aura around the aura” of the healer, who went on to sing and act in Soviet films and concerts, stemmed from the weight of the names said to have benefitted from her legendary powers. These included Russia’s late first president Boris Yeltsin, De Niro and Italian film director Federico Fellini.

Regarding herself as a mediator or conduit between Heaven and Earth, Davitashvili began her stellar rise to national fame in 1980, when she said she was summoned to the ailing Brezhnev’s bedside after conventional medicine could help him no more.

First, presumed KGB operatives visited her home in Georgia to ask if she could cure the Soviet Communist leader. “I don’t know, probably,” she replied, and within a couple of hours Davitashvili was on a plane to Moscow with her son Vakhtang. What happened after that she could not reveal because of her ‘Hippocratic oath', Davitashvili told US media, but adding that as a result of the visit, ''Leonid Ilyich [Brezhnev] told the minister of health the country should build me a whole clinic”.

She is also credited with having foreseen the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster when a reactor blew up at the power plant, envisioning shortly before the incident, “Fire, fire, something is exploding, people are running.”

While Western societies became more sceptical about the phenomenon of healers and psychics, parapsychology was still accorded serious discussion in the Soviet Academy of Sciences up to the 1991 collapse of the USSR. Stars like Juna would have millions of spellbound Soviet citizens glued to their television sets during broadcasts. Fellow healer Allan Chumak even once told viewers to put a glass in front of their TVs, promising that it would be “charged with healing energy”.

Dressed to heal

Davitashvili’s physical presence was also vivid: “Dressed in her healing clothes - a short black skirt, black stockings, black blouse, yellow silk vest and a cascade of jewelry - she brings to mind Cher in ‘’The Witches of Eastwick',” the New York Times wrote in 1988. Some referred to her simply as "the new Rasputin", who hands got hot as she healed patients, even remotely, according to newspaper reports from her heyday. 

But Davitashvili was not always the serene, curative figure she was widely taken for. According to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, she once hit Russian pop diva Alla Pugachyova around the head with an ashtray while settling an alcohol-fuelled dispute.

As well as being a mystic, painter and poetess, Davitashvili also tried her hand at Russian politics. In 1995, she ran in the parliamentary elections as the head of the Juna Davitashvili Bloc. However, her 0.47% of votes cast was not enough to give her a seat in the State Duma.

But while revered and adored by patients and fans, she died a virtual recluse, still heartbroken by the death of her only child Vakhtang in 2001. When relatives came to her Moscow home after learning of her death, they said they found the safe empty apart from some mystical keepsakes, four Bibles and a pack of vinyl records. People who enjoyed Davitashvili’s confidence in her last days had taken all her valuables, including the title deeds for five apartments in the capital and some jewel-encrusted crowns, family members claimed.

Davitashvili was buried in Moscow’s Vagankovskoye Cemetery at a ceremony attended by 300 people on June 13. She was reportedly laid to rest in a military uniform she had ordered for herself for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, but had no chance to wear because of illness in her finals days.

A fierce Russian patriot to the end, Davitashvili said in one of her last interviews that “If tomorrow Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] tells me ‘die for your Motherland, I will die.”

Regarding the conflict in East Ukraine, the mystic said the Ukrainians had brought this upon themselves. “Nothing will happen to Russia, believe me and remember my words,” she said, scoffing at Western sanctions. “No one will try to reclaim Crimea by force, no one will dare to touch Russia. Everything will calm down, what was ours will stay ours.”

Upon the news of her death, Russian actor Stanislav Sadalsky blogged: “Chekhov said that a man dies as many times as he loses his loved ones. Juna did not survive the death of her son… [She] had long been dead, she died that night with Vakhtang, her soul and body did not live on but just carried on, her healing powers disappearing while her sight quickly faded,” Sadalsky wrote. “Farewell, my dear. Thank you for everything, for our youth, for life, for love, for the warmth of your great hands and a great heart."

OBITUARY: Juna Davitashvili, the USSR’s healing hands of faith no more

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